Steve McCown emerged from the umpires’ locker room and sauntered out onto University Field.
He took his position a few feet behind third base, his legs straddling the baseline. McCown adjusted his cap and slid his feet across the dirt.
He was ready.
Too bad the players, stadium workers, those 465 in attendance and his two fellow umpires had been waiting for McCown for 90 minutes.
Travel complications had delayed his arrival.
Saturday’s game between No. 16 Missouri and No. 9 Oklahoma, an 8-3 Sooner victory, was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. The start was first pushed back to 2:30. Then it was 3:15.
Before the game officially began at 3:30, the crowd sarcastically applauded the umpire’s arrival.
Missouri players treated the delay casually.
“We did as much as we could to not think about it,” center fielder Leanne Bowers said. “We did a little stretching and lied down in the dugout for awhile.”
Some fans wandered over to the Missouri Relays track meet at adjoining Walton Stadium in the interim. Many stayed in their seats and talked.
“The nice thing is we had an absolutely gorgeous day,” Missouri coach Ty Singleton said. “We’re at the ballpark. It’s kind of tough to beat the sun.”
The game had at first proved to be worth the wait for Missouri. The Tigers and Sooners were tied 2-2 entering the sixth inning before Missouri collapsed.
A six-run Oklahoma sixth put things out of reach for the Tigers, quickly transforming a close game into an OU runaway.
One play in particular spurred the Tigers’ demise. With one run in and none out, Oklahoma’s Kristin Vesely came to the plate with the bases loaded.
Missouri looked to be out of trouble when Vesely grounded back to pitcher Jen Bruck.
But Bruck threw wild to home plate, then forgot to cover when catcher Kathy Masterson tried to get an Oklahoma runner out.
Three runs scored and Vesely advanced to third. Oklahoma (35-6, 3-0 Big 12) sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning.
Saturday’s loss was the first at home for Missouri (27-5, 1-2) this season. It came on the heels of a 2-1 loss at Southern Illinois-Carbondale Thursday.
Despite the setback, the Tigers are off to the best start of any team in the 30-year history of Missouri softball.
The teams play again at noon today.